The BTCC roars back into life at Oulton Park this weekend almost one month after the championship graced the high speed Thruxton back in early May. 2016 is already shaping up to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent history and with the prospect of Honda, MG and West Surrey Racing battling it out once again around the confines of Oulton Park, I’ve looked ahead to four of the biggest talking points before rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the championship.
Will a new face grace the top step of the podium?
We’ve already seen a whole host of race winners (seven to be exact) grace the top step of the podium so far in 2016 but with the likes of Goff, Tordoff, Sutton and Cook all still missing from that esteemed list we could yet see eight or more race winners by the end of the weekend. West Surrey Racing have traditionally been strong at Oulton Park (you can find my reasons why I feel this could be WSR’s year here) and apart from tangling with Gordon Shedden last time out at Thruxton, Goff has been a measure of consistency so far in 2016.
In the hands of Andrew Jordan, the Triple Eight run MG 6 scored two podium finishes at Oulton Park last season, and Plato and Tordoff both ran well at Oulton Park the year before. Both Cook and Sutton have been revelations for Triple Eight this season and although luck hasn’t fallen their way on Sunday, with both MG’s towards the bottom end of the top ten, lower ballast for qualifying could well see one or both cars on the front two rows of the grid. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one of Goff, Tordoff, Sutton or Cook to add their names to the winners list at Oulton Park.
Team BKR fightback
After a stunning opening six races of the season Aron Smith and the Team BKR run Volkswagen CC endured a miserable time at Thruxton scoring a 20th, 18th and a DNF. Smith’s race day became uncoupled from early on in race one when a tyre failure wrecked the Irishman’s chances of another podium finish but with a ballast free Volkswagen, Smith will be feeling confident of a top five grid spot in qualifying in a car which reigned supreme at Oulton Park last season. The independents championship is still well within reach, however Smith will face a tough battle with Morgan, Jackson and Jordan for overall independents glory, all have been strong at Oulton Park in the past.
Talking of fightbacks…
Is this the weekend where we will finally see some progress from the Team BMR Subaru Levorgs? Subaru have tested in between Thruxton and Oulton Park and after safety issues grounded the four BMR run cars at Thruxton, all of Plato, Turkington, Scott and Cole will be eager to get back into BTCC action. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that on paper at least, the Subaru is the ideal BTCC challenger and Plato has stated that BMR have got all year to get Subaru winning, however I think after what has to be classed as a disappointing start to the campaign for a team with their resources and drivers, scoring points in each race really has to be a minimum target for this weekend.
With no previous data to go by, setting up the Subaru for the challenges of Oulton Park will be difficult, but with the experience of Plato and Turkington, who has so far been BMR’s standout performer the team have the drivers capable of getting results. The midfield is so incredibly congested, and I don’t think we’ll see the cars up at the front with the likes of Honda/MG/WSR/Motorbase, but a battle with the likes of Aiden Moffat, Rob Austin and the two Eurotech Honda’s would be a solid result for a team which are mooted to be on their way to BTCC dominance.
Back to the front
The top three in the championship are covered by just three points, with the Motorbase Ford of Mat Jackson just 11 points behind the leading pair, but out of top four in the championship it was Matt Neal who enjoyed the best weekend last time out at Oulton Park with two podium finishes. WSR have traditionally been strong, and after improved qualifying form and some lightning starts Rob Collard can’t be discounted for race wins on Sunday but with the Honda of Gordon Shedden going into qualifying with less ballast than the leading four, I think last year’s champion could be among the biggest contenders for pole position.
Third placed man Morgan had a difficult weekend at Oulton in 2015, but after a 1st, 3rd and 3rd at Thruxton has catapulted himself and the WIX Racing Mercedes right into the championship hunt, a remarkable achievement for a small independently run outfit, against the might of Honda and WSR. Of course, 2013 champ Andrew Jordan can never be discounted, and the ballast free Speedworks Toyota of Tom Ingram is as ever, a potent threat for pole position.
- Tom Ingram – Speedworks
- Gordon Shedden – Honda
- Andrew Jordan – Motorbase
- Ashley Sutton – MG
- Sam Tordoff – WSR